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Americans In Civil War

.. hting for the North and trying to escape the bonds of slavery and gain freedom, discrimination still existed in the Army. The soldiers fought in segregated companies with white commanders. The Blacks were not equal to the whites as they received lower pay, performed fatigue duty and menial labor, such as cleaning quarters, laundering clothing, cleaning boots and cooking. Black soldiers, regardless of their rank, earned $10 a month minus $3 for clothing, while white privates earned $13 a month plus clothing. Ex-slaves could not advance into the ranks of commissioned officers until the end of the war. Batty and Parish note that less than 100 ever became officers and none ranked higher than captain. McPherson, who agrees with other historians that the blacks were considered second class soldiers, cites statistics to support this theory.

He shows the contrast in the number of white and black soldiers killed in action and in the rate of death from disease 8 among the white and black soldiers. The black soldiers faced the prospect of execution or sale into slavery if captured. Wilson reports that one of the worst atrocities allegedly committed against the black soldiers occurred at Fort Pillow, Tennessee on April 12, 1864, when the Confederate Army indiscriminately killed some three hundred black soldiers. The fort, stormed by General Nathan Bedford Forrests troops, had surrendered. Union officials claimed that the killing of the black soldiers was a massacre, however, the Confederate denied this claim, maintaining that the soldiers died in the fighting before the surrender.

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Wilson gives a detailed account of the battle to support the massacre theory and Harpers Weekly called the battle, “Inhuman, fiendish butchery.” Stokesbury, in concurring with Wilson, notes”the weight of evidence .. suggests a massacre.” This massacre failed to weaken the courage of the black soldiers, but rather fueled them with a desire of determination. Just as the Union Army realized the importance of black soldiers, so did the South. The readiness to which these slaves responded to the call of fighting for the confederacy is explained by the fact that the failure of Nat Turner, among others, was held up to them as their fate, should they attempt to free themselves from their masters. In the early years of the war some Confederate states accepted blacks into their units, much to Jefferson Daviss opposition. Black workers found their way into armament factories and into the Confederate Army doing anything short of handling a gun.

Throughout the war effort in the South, blacks willingly dug field fortifications, mounted cannons and built entrenchments to fortify cities and towns. Wilson cites an article in the Charleston Mercury on January 3, 1861, which reported, “One hundred and fifty able-bodied free colored men yesterday offered their services gratuitously… to hasten forward the important work of throwing up redoubts..along our coast.” Likewise, the states of 8 Tennessee and Virginia enlisted the aid of the blacks. Often after completing the needed fortifications the slaves returned to the fields to help supply the needs of the confederate soldiers who were fighting to keep the blacks as slaves. As the Confederacy faced a mounting shortage of white soldiers, General Pat Cleburne developed a plan to use the blacks in the fight for the Confederacy.

This plan promised freedom for the slaves but Jefferson Davis rejected the idea. In the dying days of the war in early 1865 the Confederacy faced an army that was daily thinned more to desertion than bullets. General-in chief of the Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee persuaded the Confederate Congress to arm slaves to fight for the South. These slaves trained, drilled and paraded in some cities. However, the war ended before this program could begin. Their importance in the fighting is found in the claim they staked to equal rights following the war.

Former slave Frederick Douglas wrote, “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass U. S. .. and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.” . The role of the black soldiers also influenced moderate Republicans to believe that the federal government should guarantee the equality before the law of all citizens.

Small, but significant, steps developed following the war towards easing the color line. For example, street cars became desegregated in several major cities. Illinois, which in 1862 had banned blacks from coming into the state, now lifted the ban, and allowed blacks to serve on juries and to testify in courts. Whereas other historians confine their accounts of black involvement in the Civil War, Catton notes in The Civil War that as a result of their fighting along side white soldiers a new attitude developed towards the blacks. Many northern soldiers had grown up knowing only the black as portrayed on the stage – grinning, big-mouthed, carefree 8 loving possum and watermelons and eating fried chicken. What they found was a real human – struggling to be in control of his destiny.

He describes a Wisconsin soldiers feelings by saying, “The black folks are awful good, poor miserable things that they are. The boys talk to them fearful and treat them most any way and yet they cant talk two minutes but tears come to their eyes and they throw their arms up and praise de Lord for de coming of de Lincoln soldiers.” Deeply entrenched in the institution of slavery, the black population responded by playing an important role in the Civil War. This role began years before the actual fighting, with the foundation being laid by outright rebellion and individual resistance as the slaves dreamed of freedom. Building on this foundation historians agree that the role of the blacks in the fighting of the Civil War was important to both the North and South efforts. Consequently, the historians agree agreement that one important result of their fighting was the advancement of the idea of their freedom and steps toward equality. This idea of freedom and equality gave great confidence and pride to these long oppressed people.

Bibliography Batty, Peter The Divided Union, Tempus Publishing Limited, September 1999. Catton, Bruce The Civil War, Houghton Mifflin Company, April 1985 Foner, Eric and Mahoney, Olivia A House Divided, Norton, Ww, Louisania University Press, May 1991 McPherson, James M. The Negros Civil War: How Americans Felt and Acted During the War for the Union., Ballantine Books, Inc., February 1989 Stokesbury, James C. A Short History of the Civil War Morrow, William & Company, March, 1997 Wilson, Joseph T. The Black Phalanx: African-American Soliders in the War of Independence and the Civil War Plenum Publishing Corp., April 1994.

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